608-834-8118    |    1512 N. Bristol St. Sun Prairie, WI 53590    |    Mon - Fri 8 AM - 6 PM

Chris Vitale

Parasite Threats to our Dogs and Cats

With spring nearly done and the summer fast approaching, we need to be sure we are protecting our dogs and cats against warm weather health threats. Heartworms, fleas, ticks, and intestinal worms are the biggest parasite threats to our canine and feline family members. Luckily, there are better methods to prevent these pests than ever before, with many products to protect against multiple threats at the same time.

Heartworms are transmitted by mosquitos and are life-threatening if your dog or cat contracts them. Luckily, mosquitoes are far more common than heartworms in our state. Unfortunately, the most recent statistics from the Companion Animal Parasite Council indicates that there were at least 21 dogs that tested positive in Dane county this year so far. This means we are on the same pace to have a similar number of cases this year compared to last year, when at least 622 cases were recorded. Heartworm positive cases are frustrating because we have very good preventatives for this disease, all of which are reasonably priced (typically $5 – $6 per month). As a bonus, the heartworm preventatives that we recommend all prevent many intestinal parasites as well, so there is coverage against these threats for the same cost.

By far the most common threats that we face in Wisconsin are fleas and ticks. Although these pests are not life-threatening, they can carry diseases that can cause significant illness including Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Tapeworms, and Ehrlichiosis, some of which can transmit to people. Prevention of fleas and ticks will keep your pet and your home more comfortable and disease-free. There have been significant advances in flea and tick prevention in the past several years. Choices for flea and tick prevention include topical medications (including liquids and new generation collars) and newer oral medications.

The most frequently used flea and tick preventatives are the topical medications. Frequently mentioned topical liquid medications include Frontline, Revolution, Activyl, and Vectra. All of these medications share the same basic formula – the product is applied to the skin on the top of the pet and is translocated from this site to the rest of the body. Once this is done, these products last about 4 weeks. Each of the topical medications that are available have different characteristics in terms of which parasite they target best, durability of protection, safety to other animals, and cost.

Another form of topical medications are new generation flea and tick collars. These newer collars are vastly different from collars that have been previously available. Older collars were a piece of plastic with some active ingredient on the surface of the collar; they were good at keeping fleas and ticks off the collar but not the pet. The newest collars include more advanced medication that has been impregnated into the polymer of the collar. The collars will then release a small amount of the active ingredient with ongoing friction between the collar and the pet’s coat and skin. These products will provide 6 to 8 months of very thorough protection against fleas and ticks, even with swimming and bathing (because the product will constantly renew the amount of medication on the dog or cat). These collars can repel fleas and ticks as well as kill them once on the pet. These collars are incredibly convenient, with no maintenance after the collar is placed.

The newest form of flea and tick prevention are the oral products. While we have had access to oral flea medications for several years, only in the past 18 months have we had medications that would kill both fleas and ticks. These medications are made into a soft treat that most dogs take willingly. Because the medication is circulated in the bloodstream, there is no chance for exposure of people in the home to the medications, making these ideal for homes with small children, though the lack of repellant action is a concern for some owners. These products are also very convenient, with brands that are given either once per month or once about every 3 months.

Intestinal parasites are a year-round threat to dogs and cats, though the prevalence is far greater in the warmer months. Luckily, most of the intestinal parasites that are of concern to use can controlled by one of the other parasite control products listed above. The heartworm prevention that we recommend is able to control many of the intestinal parasites that we encounter, while some of the flea and tick products can do the same.

If you have any questions about parasite threats to your dog or cat, please call us for a discussion on how to protect your pet best.

Dr. V

Canine Influenza reported in Dane County

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection released an alert indicating that there has been a confirmed case of Canine Influenza (CI) in Dane County. The confirmation was made this week. Based on the behavior of this outbreak in Chicago, we can expect a significant number of dogs to become infected.

CI is spread through dog to dog contact, and will transmit readily between dogs that are at dog parks, dog day care, boarding facilities, grooming facilities, or other congregation sites (competitions and dog shows, etc.). Detailed information regarding CI is posted on our website, and also available through the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) websites.

Vaccination is recommended for dogs that are are risk due to social behavior. The vaccine can provide full protection from the disease, but not always. The vaccine is effective at reducing the duration of illness and degree of virus spread in most dogs, but it is important to note that a dog must receive 2 doses of vaccine, spaced 2 to 3 weeks apart, before protection can begin; full protection may not be achieved for 4 weeks.

Please call the Sun Prairie Pet Clinic if you have any questions about this emerging threat to our canine family members.

Canine Influenza

Currently Sun Prairie Pet Clinic is closely monitoring the incidence of a Canine Influenza outbreak that is taking place in Chicago.

Canine Influenza (CI), also known as ‘dog flu’ is an influenza virus that was first recognized as a novel canine disease in 2004.  The initial cases involved racing Greyhounds in Florida; since that time there have been cases recorded in 30 states, with the disease now recognized as endemic (meaning it is now a commonly noted disease) in parts of Colorado, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Similar to other influenza viruses, CI has been classified based on its unique structure; the CI that is responsible for the current outbreak is labeled H3N8.  Unlike other influenza viruses (like H1N1 in people), the canine influenza virus does not appear to have the ability to infect other species at this time.  There is another distinct canine influenza (H3N2) that has been identified in Asia; there are no reports of H3N2 outside of Asia and no reports of H3N8 outside of the United States.

CI is a particularly difficult disease to contain because it is extremely easy to transmit from dog-to-dog.  The virus is transmitted through the respiratory secretions of infected dogs as well as through contaminated objects.  This virus will remain alive and potentially infectious on hard surfaces for 48 hours, on clothing for 24 hours, and on hands for 12 hours.  An infected dog is potentially contagious to other dogs for several days before ever showing symptoms.  Because of this, outbreaks are typically swift and severe, with virtually all non-vaccinated exposed dogs expected to become infected.

Once exposed, most dogs (about 80%) will show symptoms; the other 20% that do not can still transmit the virus.  Most dogs (over 90%) will show only mild symptoms of CI.  Mild cases will typically show a cough that persists 10 – 21 days despite antibiotics and cough suppressants, runny nose and eyes, sneezing, lethargy, and a decrease in appetite.  The cough that is seen can be a dry hacking cough or a more moist productive cough.  A small percentage of infected dogs (less than 10%) will show a severe form of the disease, which includes pneumonia, high grade fever (usually from 104° to 106° F), and rapid breathing.  In approximately 2% of infected dogs, the disease has been fatal.  There is no specific treatment for CI.  Severe cases benefit from hospitalization for supportive care (which could include nutritional support, oxygen therapy, IV antibiotics, among other things); mild cases will frequently convalesce and recover at home with nursing care from the owner.

There is a vaccine available for H3N8 Canine Influenza.  This vaccine may not prevent infection completely, but is has been shown to be very effective at reducing the severity and duration of the illness.  Additionally, the vaccine has shown to reduce the amount of virus that is transmitted from a patient as well as the duration of time that the virus is transmitted.  Dogs that have access to other dogs in a social or working situation (dogs that visit dog parks, dog care care, dogs that are kenneled or boarded, show dogs or dogs that compete in agility or other competitions) are considered at risk and the use of this vaccine should be considered for them.

There are no confirmed cases of Canine Influenza in the Madison area at this time stemming from the outbreak that is occurring in Chicago.  Due to the highly infectious nature of this disease and the fact that many of our local residents visit the Chicago area frequently, we feel that there is a substantial risk that this disease will find its way here.  We are counseling all of our clients about this disease and evaluating risk of exposure and potential benefit of vaccination on a case by case basis.  If you have any questions about Canine Influenza or the steps you can take to protect your dog, please call Sun Prairie Pet Clinic for more information.


American Veterinary Medical Association – Canine Influenza – https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Reference/Pages/Canine-Influenza-Backgrounder.aspx?PF=1, updated April 2015

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine – Canine Influenza – http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/canine_influenza.pdf, updated June 2014